The second season of the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour started exactly like the first one for Raisa Schoon and Katja Stam as the Dutch Olympians won the first Elite16 event of 2023 in a remarkable way in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday.
Schoon and Stam claim first 2023 Beach Pro Tour gold
The Dutch Olympians ended a strong campaign in Doha with the title
Publicado 06:42, 05 Feb 2023
The two Dutch players, who also topped the podium at the first Elite16 event of the 2022 season in Rosarito, Mexico, 11 months ago, came from behind to overcome Swiss pair Nina Brunner and Tanja Hüberli in the three-set (20-22, 21-14, 15-11) gold medal match at the Aspire Park sports complex. Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho took bronze.
The three teams that made it to the podium in Doha also added valuable points to their Olympic Rankings, which will determine the teams qualified for the Paris 2024 Games. Schoon and Stam collected 1,200 points, Brunner and Hüberli secured 1,100 and Clancy and Mariafe got 1,000.
Schoon, 21, and Stam, 24, displayed impressive maturity to come back from a first-set loss and dominate the Swiss in the remainder of the match. The defender, who was on fire on the backcourt and also produced 14 kills, was pleased with the team’s performance.
“In a final, every point counts and we just went for it,” Schoon explained. “I think we did a very good job. The consistency of Katja’s blocking was incredible and I got to dig so many balls. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m very proud.”
The Dutch took bronze last week in Doha at the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals. They claimed their third gold after victory in Rosarito and Paris last season.
The two players were also able to keep their podium streak going as they have now earned medals in their last four events with golds won in Paris and Doha and bronzes earned at the Finals and the 2022 European Championship.
“This is the first tournament in the Olympic qualification period and that’s our dream goal, so it’s certainly a good start,” Stam reflected. “I’m already looking forward to the rest of the season and our goal will be to keep the same level of play we showed here and make it even better. I think that’s what we did here in Doha, we kept growing during the tournament and I’m happy about it.”
The first set of the gold medal match included two very different moments. If in the first half, the teams basically exchanged points. The second was filled with turnarounds and good runs from both sides. The Swiss were the first to secure a two-point lead at 11-9, but quickly saw the Dutch score three in a row and take control at 12-11. The Swiss fought back and had a three-point lead at 14-11, but the Dutch came back again and tied the score at 20 points. In the end, Hüberli, who sustained a knee injury following a jump, tooled Stam’s block to give her team a 22-20 victory.
The second set started on a different rhythm as the Dutch quickly jumped ahead and built a 4-1 lead with a smart tip from Schoon. Their advantage increased to six points when Hüberli made an offensive mistake at 10-4 and, although the Swiss were able to reduce the lead at certain moments, the Dutch remained in control until the end, when Stam scored off an ace to take the set 21-14.
Schoon and Stam maintained their momentum going at the start of the tie-breaker and scored the first four points of the decider, quickly getting themselves into a comfortable position. The Swiss were eventually able to trim the lead to three points, but a powerful spike from Stam clinched the 15-11 win for the Dutch.
The silver medallists of the Tokyo Olympics, Clancy and Mariafe secured their spot on the podium in Doha with a three-set (12-21, 21-15, 15-10) victory over reigning European champions Tina Graudina and Anastasija Samoilova in the bronze medal match.
“We were fourth last week in the 2022 Beach Pro Tour Finals and didn’t want to leave without a medal again,” Mariafe reacted. “We knew it was in us, so we just had to find a way to remain really patient and find that fight. We never lost trust that we could come out on top.”
Earlier in the semifinals, Stam and Schoon topped the Australians 2-0 (21-19, 21-19) while Brunner and Hüberli prevailed over the Latvians also in two sets (21-16, 22-20).
The next Elite16 event on the calendar of the 2023 Beach Pro Tour is set to take place in Tepic, Mexico, from March 22-26. The week before, there will be a Challenge tournament in La Paz, Mexico, and a Futures event on Mt. Maunganui Beach, New Zealand.